Enjoying Toastmasters

Everyone uses the same programme - everyone gets something different from it. This page shows how the skills learned in the club are put to good use outside it.

To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld - and as with most great comedians, there is a grain of truth behind the humour:

"Asked to rank their fears, four out of five people will put public speaking ahead of death. Therefore at a funeral, those four would rather be the one in the coffin than the one giving the eulogy"

Toastmasters can help you be the fifth person.


Mark Maney keeps them laughing



Mark Maney, Champion, in his own words...

I initially joined because of my friend Robert Wong, long-time toastmaster from Maungakiekie Toastmasters in Auckland. I competed in the humorous speech contest after I joined in 2014 as well as helped in a Speechcraft course offered by our club. I made it to the division level and ended up placing second that year. Maungakiekie was extremely helpful at that time. 

Unfortunately, changing circumstances caused me to quit Toastmasters after a very fruitful eight months. Fast-forward a year later, and I found myself in Tauranga with my supervisor suggesting I should try Toastmasters again. The club that worked best with my schedule was City Early Start. It was here that I once again tried my hand at the humorous speech contest. I credit the support and insights that I got from this club to be key in my success in this year's contest. 

Even though the pressure is crazy, I love competing. If you have ever seen Alien and the scene where the alien bursts out of the chest of one of the people, that's what my heart feels like! Your hands are shaking, your armpits are sweating, every nuclear-level type disaster that could happen is going through your head, and everyone is watching you. YOU. And they're judging you as well! It's intense. But it's the perfect time to give a speech. Because if you can give one in that context, you can give a speech anywhere.

At the District competition, it was 7am, it was the contest briefing, and I drew to go first. At that moment I thought, "Well, there goes my chances." It took quite a bit of wind out of my sails. I knew that going first was a tough spot to be in (it's one of the reasons we have a warm-up speaker in contests of this nature!). But after about ten minutes of feeling downtrodden I decided it didn't matter. I was going to go out and give the best version of the speech I could. Speaking order couldn't stop me from doing that!

Toastmasters has developed in me an appreciation for all the different topics and ideas that resonate with people. I have also eliminated many bad habits in speaking. Not only by being called out on them in evaluations and such, but by seeing things in speeches that I don't like. 

I'm currently training to become an ordained minister with the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, but I'm originally from Canada, and used to be a trumpet player for the Loyal Edmonton Regiment Band. The Canadian government had plans to finish renovation of the Vimy Ridge monument in France for its 90th anniversary ceremony in 2007. Largely because of luck, I was chosen to be part of these ceremonies. It was during this experience I learned the content of my humorous speech. Every Canadian learns about the Battle of Vimy Ridge, but the content of my speech I learned in Vimy Ridge itself, from the Canadian military's unique innovations, to exploding sheep.

(Originally posted on Facebook)



Age Is No Barrier

Ninety three year old gains prestige Toastmaster award

Betty Meyers of the Capital Toastmasters club in Wellington New Zealand is  93 years old and has achieved the award of Advanced Communicator (Silver). 

Betty  has been a member of the Capital Toastmasters club for 10 years and has also earned her Competent Leader award.

She keeps members enthralled with her description of what life was like in Wellington in the 1930s and during World War 11 when she trained to be a nurse. 

'We looked out at the harbour first thing in the morning, and it was full of warships. The US Marines had arrived'.

She remains silent on what, if any, relationships she had with the young handsome Marines who would have zeroed in to the Nurses Hostel like homing pigeons.

'Wouldn't you just like to know', she archly replied to an interjection during a Table Topics session. 'Anyway, the Matron kept us on a pretty tight reign so the Marines didn't get much joy out of us'.

Oddly enough Betty joined Toastmasters because of her interest in running Marathons. She has run 21 and in her last one she finished first in the 80s age group in the Honolulu Marathon. She took 14 hours to do it but despite having to have frequent rest stops in the enervating heat, she was the only one in her age group to finish. This actually made her a top international athlete. It is ironic to think that had she been in her 30s she would have been national headline news.

She was on the committee of the Wellington Marathon Clinic and after one meeting, Rob Julian the then President of Capital Toastmasters and President of the Marathon Clinic was giving her a lift home and told her that he had to get to a Capital Toastmasters meeting and Betty said she would like to come and see what it was all about.

Since then she has never looked back. 

'Toastmasters gave me a new lease of life', she said. 'The Capital Club members are wonderful people and they don't treat me like a silly little old lady. I have to meet the same objectives for each project as everyone else. Once I was told I had to repeat one of the Advanced Manual Speeches again. Which was fair enough'.

And as far as the members of Capital Toastmasters are concerned, Betty is a living treasure. 

A Different Type of Contest

The Toastmaster - July 2016

This edition of The Toastmaster magazine has an article about Dr Deborah Lambie, Miss University New Zealand 2014, Miss Supermodel New Zealand 2014, and Miss World New Zealand 2015.

In this article, which is part of a larger item about beauty pageant winners around the world thanking Toastmasters for their crowns, Deborah says, "Without Toastmasters, I don't know if I would have won the national competition."

She won the best speaker award at the 26th World Miss University pageant in South Korea in 2014 as well as several contests held by her home club, Turbine Talkers, in Wellington.

A copy of The Toastmaster magazine is delivered to the letterbox of each New Zealand Toastmaster right now, and past issues are publicly available online.


"We Can Help With That"

Judging a Special Needs Contest

An article by Darrell Phillips, ACG, Spinnaker Toastmasters Club

5 June 2016

Fellow Toastmasters,

If in 2017 a local Rotary club should approach your club to supply judges for a Special Needs Adults speech contest then throw both hands in the air shouting "I will, I will!".

On a recent Saturday morning I had what proved to be the privilege of helping to select three Wellington speakers to go forward to a national final being held that afternoon. The event I attended was masterfully organised by the Plimmerton Rotary of Porirua.

The speakers ranged in age from their late teens to some in their 30s each with their own difficulties to overcome.

That they were able to overcome those difficulties and bravely step up to a speaking platform to address strangers on "what I believe my future will be"  became for me the most emotional and difficult judging role I have ever undertaken. It was also to be the most humbling, heart warming and inspirational contest I have ever enjoyed!

I am not a person who shows great emotion in public, I was stoic at my parents' funerals, yet I teared-up regularly as I listened to the speeches of those special 12 speakers that morning, because their speeches were full of pride (in their families, helpers, friends and achievements), hopes for their future (jobs prospects, travel, romance), humour (one young lady used binoculars to looked into her future, fancied Prince Harry as her boyfriend and Buckingham Palace as her 'des-res') and a total belief that for them anything was possible.

I say speeches but it was much more. Most of them also used PowerPoint presentations very professionally to support their words.  

They did not ignore their difficulties however, indeed almost all addressed their unique problem in their speeches - and every speaker had their support team. Parents, siblings, relatives and friends cheering them on and making it possible for them to be there. One speaker's carer had brought him by bus train and then bus, from Island Bay to Whitby, because her car had broken down and her only other transport option was "moving house that day". So she did all the bus-train-bus travel "because he deserved the chance". 

We the judges felt fully tested when it came time to decide who our winners would be. In our eyes each and every one of our speakers were winners just for having stood on the podium, and our task was harder by their speech quality. In a conventional Toastmaster contest we might have 3 or 4 who stand out enough for us to decide the final places. In this contest we virtually had an across-the-field blanket finish, and that did not take into account the impact of each speaker's special difficulty. It meant we had to throw away the conventional Toastmaster points system and judge from the heart - and we found we agreed on whose noses were in front.

Our special people gave us one last inspirational surprise. Those that were not placed treated each place winners' name with the sort of joy that you and I might show only if it were our own name that was being called out. There was no envy, just a shared pleasure that three of their own were going forward to the next stage. This was a lesson the world at large would do well to learn.

This was a day of many emotions, challenges, and above all inspiration. 

I salute Plimmerton Rotary, and Rotary NZ at large, for their efforts in organising a contest which I hope will continue to grow.

I salute the incredible carers, friends, and professionals, who give so much love and help to their special charges.

But above all I salute the VERY special 12 young people for their courage and performance in an area which many (many!) people fear – public speaking. I hope they are as proud of themselves as we think they should be. They are leaders in every sense of the word.

If a local Rotary club, school, or other organisation should approach your club to supply judges for their speech contest, please remember the lyrics of Beyonce's song and "put your hands up!!"

Darrell Phillips ACG
Spinnaker Toastmasters  Club 7868/72

Toastmasters Can "Up Your Game"

Uni speech success

Melanie Oliver (pictured above), a Toastmaster from Dunedin wrote to us recently to describe her experiences and how Toastmasters worked for her:

"Public speaking had always been a fear of mine. After starting at Otago University I knew I would be required to give some short group presentations. I also knew that in the third year of my Ecology Degree I would need to present research on my own from a Catlins field trip for 12 minutes.  So I could present with confidence and communicate my ideas purposefully, I joined the Dunedin Toastmasters Club for students, Scarfies Speechcraft in April 2015.  As I worked through the Competent Communication manual projects, little by little my confidence grew and my delivery improved with the feedback gained. Last year I was awarded the Most Improved Speaker for the club and just recently I gave that presentation from the Catlins field trip and came top of my class of forty students!  Thank you Toastmasters. "

Similarly, Dr. Pippa Mitchell, Ph.D., shares her experience:

"As part of the doctorate, you have to present to a conference in both your first and second years. Part of the reason for joining Toastmasters was to help with that, but I didn't anticipate the result. After my first-year speech, my professor was accused of slipping a second-year student into his first-year team!

That brought home to me the difference Toastmasters training can make."

In Conclusion

Conquer the world, one room at a time

Author: Ayla Goddard (pictured above)

This article first appeared in Fairfax community papers as a Backyard Banter column.

Ten years ago if you had told me I'd enjoy Public Speaking and use this skill to improve my career, I would have laughed at you.  I was fresh out of high school and ready to take on the World. But taking on a room full of strangers? Forget it.

We've all been there. Palms sweaty. Heart racing. Stomach doing somersaults. Sometimes dread so severe that you completely freeze, your mouth dries up or you start shaking. Sound familiar?  You, like 75% of the population, have probably experienced some level of Glossophobia. For some, the fear of public speaking is worse than the fear of death.

The reality is, you will probably have to present something at some point in your life and will need to be able to communicate your ideas to a group of people effectively. When I started out in retail I had an opportunity to share what I knew about wine in the form of educational tastings. I had knowledge, ambition and passion behind my material, but delivering to a group of ten strangers was a daunting prospect.

I realized I would benefit from being able to conduct presentations with poise, confidence and conviction. I finally decided to join a Toastmasters Club. This has given me a platform to practice with familiar faces, in a supportive environment that provides feedback and encourages self-improvement. Fast-forward two years. I'm an Account Manager for a Wine Distributor. Talking to a room full of strangers? Not only is it enjoyable, there is not the slightest hint of dread.

Learning to walk the walk and talk the talk can help each and every one of us in our daily lives.  Whether presenting to colleagues, networking, negotiating, teaching others, or presenting a speech at a best friend's wedding, speaking effectively is an invaluable tool whatever field you specialise in . 

Five Tips to Being a Successful Public Speaker

1. Know your content: You can set yourself up just by knowing your subject well and revising the important parts of your speech. The less you use notes, the more easily you will be able to talk with authority on the topic.  

2. Eye Contact: Just as looking directly at a customer makes you appear more genuine and trustworthy, using eye contact with your audience has the same effect by engaging them with your message.

3. Slow Down: On stage nerves can make you talk much faster than you realise. Enunciate your words clearly and use pauses to think about your next point. This also gives your audience time to digest what you have said and adds impact in your delivery.

4. Voice Variation: This applies to the rate, tone and volume. Once you master the art of your voice to convey your meaning; using hand gestures and eye contact become a natural integration.

5. Thrive off the Energy: When the nerves come, use this energy for an animated expression, voice and big gestures. These are all powerful tools to stimulate your audience, hold their attention and drive home your message. 

Have Fun: Now that you have the basics covered, relax and enjoy it! Injecting humour and emotion will create a reciprocated positive ripple across the crowd, which is a highly rewarding experience for the speaker.

Today if you asked me do I enjoy public speaking, the answer is it can be a laugh, but not in the way I imagined. The experience can not only be fun, but a skill with which to build confidence, experience personal growth and drive your own success in career endeavors. Ten years ago I thought I was brave enough to take on the World. Now I can also take on talking to a room full of people.  Take that, Glossophobia. 


Ayla Goddard is a member of Remuera Toastmasters in Auckland.